The memory is clear.

I’m sitting on the couch between my nearly 2-year-old daughter and my 4-year-old son. Strewn on the coffee table are pretzels, a plate of apple slices and two plastic cups of apple juice.

I am reading my way through a stack of Jewish kiddie books. My kids know many of the books by heart. MyWhat am I doing reading kids books on Yom Kippur? daughter grabs for the book I’m holding, and my son decides he wants it, too.

As I play referee, a cup of apple juice spills right on my skirt and drips down onto the tan carpet. Why did the landlord put in such a light carpet in an apartment with children?! I think for the hundredth time.

“Stay right here!” I tell my kids, as I go off to change my skirt. As I head for my room, I hear the bickering escalate. Even though I know these things are just part of life, I feel myself tense.

Calm down! I scold myself. No one spilled apple juice on purpose, to annoy you! And one more little stain on the carpet doesn’t matter. Who cares? I sigh. But here it is, Yom Kippur, and for one day, just for a few hours, I should be able to banish bad feelings. This is a day for repentance, and here I am getting upset over spilled juice. It’s not even milk.

I change my skirt, and determine that I am not going to let things get to me that, in the scheme of things, really are insignificant.

But what am I doing on Yom Kippur reading kiddie books? I ask myself. Is this what G‑d wants from me? Maybe He wants me to be in shul. I have a lot of repentance to do this year, G‑d knows.

Ah, but no. I realize, especially when both of my beautiful children run to greet me with hugs when I return, that caring for my young children on Yom Kippur is exactly what G‑d wants from me.

My machzor, the High Holy Day prayerbook, that sits on the mantel will just have to wait. I tell myself that when my children are napping, I will get a chance to pray. I won’t have all day to do so, but I’ll make the time count.

Still, a part of me longs to be in shul, praying with concentration, and singing the Yom Kippur tunes. How I love those songs! The familiar melodies bring back memories of praying alongside my family as a child.

As I settle my children down with a dumped-out box of Legos, I hum the Yom Kippur tunes and I sing some of the kids’ favorites songs with them, like “Dip the Apple in the Honey.” Later, I will be able to get in some praying with my machzor.

I didn’t marry until I was in my 30s, and I didn’t have children for six-and-a-half years. I had plenty of time when I could focus only on myself and my prayers. Now, my avodah (translated as both “work” and also “Divine service”) is to care for my children—even, and maybe especially, on Yom Kippur. G‑d instructs us to emulate Him. As He is merciful, so, too, should we should be merciful. We emulate Him when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal (or tend to) the sick, which is all part of childcare.

When I was expecting my daughter, I really felt sick the afternoon right before Yom Kippur. I was due in two months, and I was terrified. I called my rabbi. He told me to tell my husband to stay home from synagogue that night. My husband would have liked to be there for Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur services, but he understood that it was even more important for him to be home with me.

By the morning, I was feeling much better, thank G‑d, and my husband went to shul. He has never needed to skip Yom Kippur services since then.In a way, I miss those days But all these years later, I am still grateful to him that he stayed with me that Yom Kippur night.

Now my children are 19 and 16. I sit in shul on Yom Kippur (and all other times) without distraction. I love singing the Yom Kippur songs with the whole congregation.

But, in a way, I miss those days when my children were little, even if it meant I couldn’t spend time in prayer the way I’d have liked.

The kiddie books are stashed away on the bottom shelf of our bookcase. They’re waiting for the next generation.